On Monday, the US government officially initiated its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a move that has drawn widespread criticism, while surprising absolutely no one.
“The world is moving ahead to embrace the economic opportunities of the 21st century. Meanwhile, President Trump is undercutting confidence that the United States will honor its global commitments and demonstrating a grave moral failure to lead on the climate crisis.”~Andrew Steer, President, World Resources Institute
The United States is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (behind only China). Despite the findings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment – a report co-written by 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies under the Trump administration – which was released in 2018, the President continues to downplay climate science and the seriousness of climate change.
There is no doubt that this withdrawal, something Trump has been insisting upon since 2017, is indeed a grave ‘moral failure’.
However, in practical terms, very little will change due to the exit of the world’s largest economy from the Paris Agreement.
This is due to the fact that world carbon emissions are rising rather than falling; emissions hit an all-time-high last year, and 2019 is set to top those. Out of the 196 countries that signed the Paris Agreement, only four are relatively on track to meet the goal of limiting emissions to a level compatible with a sub-2 degree C temperature rise: Morocco, The Gambia, India, and Costa Rica, with the EU as a region gaining an honorable mention. According to NatGeo’s article, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are barely trying.
There remains an unwillingness among both developed and emerging economies to move away from conventional energy to power development: India and China in particular, despite their large-scale investments in renewable energy, persist in oil and coal-powered development projects.
In India, old and inefficient coal power plants, despite operating at a loss, still feed the country’s ever-increasing energy demand, while newer, more efficient plants face significant hurdles in obtaining coal and negotiating Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) to sell electricity. Only four countries have made sustained attempts to honour the Paris Agreement goals, while as a society, we have failed, year upon year, to reduce emissions. In the current state of affairs, the United States’ exit from the Paris Agreement simply makes official their stance on climate change: they don’t believe it, and they’re not going to pretend that they do.